Thursday, 31 December 2015

ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING


Tim stood in front of the machine and gave the key components another check.
“What’s that?”
Tim turned to the hooker sat on his couch. She was naked from the waist up and smoking a post coital cigarette while watching him tinker with his project.
“Nothing to concern you,” he replied. Satisfied that everything was in order he left the machine alone and walked across to the large floor to ceiling window that took up the whole south end of his penthouse apartment.
“It looks like a hot tub,” she said. “You didn’t say you had a hot tub.”
“It isn’t a hot tub.”
“You seem bothered,” said the hooker. “Was our tumble not to your satisfaction?”
Tim chuckled to himself and caught her eye in the reflection. He wasn’t fond of her smoking inside the apartment, but there wasn’t much point telling her off. It really wasn’t important once he left everything behind. “You were a delight,” he said. “Satisfaction, on the other hand, well that is something in short supply as of late.”
“Oh honey, what’s her name?”
“Excuse me?”
“The girl who broke your heart. You’re wearing it on your sleeve, bright as day.”
Tim chuckled, out loud this time. His mother always said he was rubbish at hiding his emotions. She said he should keep his sorry attempt at a poker face far from the bright lights and green tables of Vegas or he’d end up penniless.
“So, what did she do to you?”
“She didn’t do anything,” he replied. “It was my fault.”
“Did you cheat on her,” said the hooker. “Am I not your first lady of the night?”
He could see her smiling, heard the jest in her words. “I have never, and would never, betray her. She means a great deal to me. Things just got . . . complicated.”
“And there’s nothing you can do to uncomplicate them?”
“There is.” He glanced at the machine sat across the room. “But it’s . . . unconventional.”
“If it works then that’s all that counts, right?”
“My dear, you not only know all the right moves in the bedroom, you seem to know all the right words to make things make sense.”
“Good to hear. And I won’t charge you extra.”
Explosions and bright lights grabbed Tim’s attention and he looked back out at the world beyond his penthouse. Fireworks lit up the clear night sky. Another year over.
The hooker stubbed out her cigarette and joined him at the window. She rested her chin on his shoulder and wrapped her arms around his waist. The feeling was nice, he thought, but they were the wrong arms.
“Any new year’s resolutions?” she asked softly into his ear.
“Only to try and do it better this time.”
“I wish you all the best.” She kissed him on the check as the orchestra of rockets and gunpowder came to a close. “Unfortunately you’re only paid up until the stroke of midnight.” She headed back to the couch and grabbed what clothes weren’t currently covering her modesty. “I’ll tell you what, though, things don’t work out with this woman and you get sad again, you give us a call.”
“That’s sweet,” said Tim.
“What can I say, it’s nice to be with a man who likes it gentle, for once. You were a breath of fresh air. I’d offer you a discount too,” she said as she glanced around the penthouse apartment, “but I know some rich folk get offended by that kind of thing.”
Tim smiled and led the hooker towards the elevator.  “You’re a nice woman. Maybe things don’t work out, I’ll whisk you away from this world and show you the wonders of the world.”
“Maybe see you later.”
Another kiss, a gentle hug, and then he was watching the elevator doors close. On the hooker, on the night, on the year that had passed once more.
“Not if I see you first,” Tim whispered.
He waited a little while before making his way around the apartment; lights off, curtains closed. He didn’t know why he carried out this ritual every time he used the machine. Once he left, none of his stuff would exist. But his mind had it that he was ‘going out’ so the routine just felt natural.
Once satisfied, he grabbed his coat, knowing that it was a cold night where he was going, and then settled into the machine. A dome closed over him. He set the date, the time, the location.
He was going back to that party, New Year on the balcony.
The woman. He couldn’t get her out of his mind. She had proven quiet the pursuit.
He knew where he’d gone wrong.
He pulled the lever. The machine whirred to life.
Back again. Back to relive the year over once more. He would keep trying until she noticed him, fell for him, loved him.
She was worth it.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

(vol 2) EPILOGUE: “Two Steps Forward . . .”

2015 WORD COUNT=                        125517




An improvEment

Two years ago I set out on a journey, one that I thought I’d started so many years ago. I wanted to be a writer, always had. I loved coming up with stories, loved creating characters. But I’d never treated it as anything more than something to pass the time, something just for me to enjoy, something to sit in the huge collection of notebooks and folders, and never see the light of day.

I’d been dragging my feet. Because if I write, then I’m a writer, right? But if I don’t take myself seriously, why should I expect other people to.

So I started this blog, stuck my face out there, and said hello to the world. I opened the door to the little broom cupboard I’d been writing in (note: a metaphorical broom cupboard) and set about doing something about it all.

I’ll be the first to admit that year one saw me dreaming a little too high. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with launching right out the starting gate and laying a work down; giving it a cover, a price, and unleashing into digital bookstores. But I wanted something without knowing what I wanted. Should I write a new novel, fix an old one, or collect some short stories together? I started it all, and at the same time, never really started any of it.

And then Flash Fiction gripped me, focused me, and showed me how to slow down and concentrate on things. I wrote outside my comfort zones, worked to deadlines, and met like-minded people all wanting the same thing; to write and be read.

Sure, I never got my own work out there by Christmas 2014 (my original mission), but I did have work out there. And it was grouped with other awesome work, bound in a professional cover. And you could buy it. I could buy it. Most importantly, my mother could buy it. I ended that year on a high, and figured I was more on track, hoping that things could only get better.

So why did I go and let myself down. Again.

Let’s see what happened.



THE FANTASY WAS JUST A FANTASY

I’d started the year with a big project at the forefront, an episodic fantasy tale to be published here fortnightly. It was a culmination of six months planning, years of notes, and a whole NaNo worth of writing.

And it only lasted eleven episodes.

It just wasn’t working. I wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo 2014 and then edited the first couple of episodes after Christmas, all while planning where the story was going after those first 50,000 words. Yet the more I wrote, the more a different story rose up from within it. I was struggling to write something that didn’t want to be written, all while trying to ignore the story that really did. And it was already out there, so I didn’t have the editing wriggle room I needed.

All I could do was pull the plug. It was still early days. It was a brave move and some people were a little annoyed (sorry Emma, sorry Jo). But it needed to go back to the drawing board, to be reworked and rereleased. FRACTURED DAWN episodes 1-11 were a lesson, one I won’t forget in a hurry.

To those few that were enjoying the adventures of Cook, he will be back, I promise. And it will be better.

I hope.


THE ROAD TO VICTORY – THE FLASH FICTION STORY

2015 saw me still chasing Flash Fiction wins across three contests. I’d been close a couple of times and I had finally realised that I was just waiting for that combo of prompt, story, and judge.

Amazingly I didn't have to wait long. January saw me obtain my first ever Flash Fiction win over at Angry Hourglass. ROLL BACK, a bittersweet tale of a man and his time travelling roller-skates (I swear I don’t do drugs) was unexpected enough for the results page to give me whiplash with a double take. I’d finally won with one of my stories and I felt a huge weight lift. It was another confidence boast. Maybe I wasn’t too bad at this writing lark after all.

Things carried on getting better with a further three wins through the first quarter of 2015. There was THE CLIMB, a story of marital abuse and revenge, CLOSING TIME, where a waitress’ life is spared by pure luck, and STRANGERS THINGS, the sad story of a cataclysmic event and two lovers who may be torn apart by the fallout.

It was late July when a results page brought tears to my eyes. BEHROUZ AND THE FORTUNE FISH, my Middle Eastern fairy tale, got me my Flash! Fiction win. It was something special, to reach the goal I’d been chasing for over a year. While the Hourglass wins boasted me with confidence on a professional level, the Flash! Friday win was something personal because it was the contest that had started it all for me. Happy doesn’t do it justice.

And the set wouldn’t have been complete with a win at Micro Bookends, which I did in style in early September with a one-two. WHEN THE STUDENT BECOMES THE MASTER was the story of an under-educated father fearing the moment when his two young children surpass him mentally.

While these wins are just a handful of happy Flash Fiction memories (I even tried my hand a judging which was more fun than I expected), the year ended on a sad note; two of the contests I’d been enjoying (and thought would last forever) where shutting down. It was like heading into the woods with your friends and finding that the den you built last summer had been burnt to the ground. It was a hole. The community was still there (they're awesome like that) but two of our clubhouses had disappeared. Would things be the same?

I guess we’ll find out next year.



THE ANTHOLOGIES STRIKE BACK

In 2014 I wrote a lot of stories. If you go onto Amazon right now, you can pick up an Anthology that has four of them in it. How cool is that? For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of having my words available to people who don’t know me and now it’s possible.

2015 saw the FlashDogs doing it again with the second Anthology, a two-parter based on the theme of Solstice. And they invited me along for the ride once  more. One Anthology is spectacular, two is a dream come true . . . so when the third one comes out next year I have no idea how that will feel. Visit often and I will keep you updated, but whispers hint at a February release.

  

DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING – THE BIRTH OF CHRIS AND MIKE

When I started this blog I couldn’t have predicted the side step it would take from novels and short stories into this thing called Flash Fiction. So it’s apt, perhaps, that this year saw another left field surprise in the form of two characters who not only wouldn’t go away, but grew into my main project from this past year, and look like taking up all of my 2016.

A throw away comment was all it took for me to take two characters from a one off 100 word Flash Fiction story and turn it into an epic ongoing series. What started as two crazy friends fighting off zombies spawned an adventure through time, monsters that thrived on music, the death of a stuffed toy, and a family legacy that could hold the key to it all. Like the bastard child of Buffy, Supernatural, and Doctor Who, each week saw me invent crazy new threats and crazier new scenarios. And each week the plot threatened to strangle me as the cast of recurring characters grew. And let’s not forget that fan base.

In fact it all grew so much, I had no choice but to drop all other projects and make something out of the mess I’d laid down at Micro Bookends.

Which kind of leads me to my 2015 NaNoWriMo efforts . . .

  

SHUT OFF THAT EDITOR – THE NANO WAY

It started in July.

I knew that I could expand the 100 words CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE WORLD stories, but going novel length was too much. So I settled on Novella length (about 25,000 words) and set about the planning.

I also knew that NaNoWriMo was my best bet at getting my head down and powering through the project, but that was too far off. So I decided to try July’s CampNaNoWriMo for a second year running. I’d focus on the first book, a smaller goal (going for half my November target), and see if it could even work.

And it did. Better than I thought. I had something. Sure, it wouldn’t hit NYT bestseller lists or win any prestigious awards, but it felt like something I’d like to read and that is all I really want to do. Sure, other people reading it is amazing, but I can’t write for other people. Other people can like what I write.

Right?

So I carried the optimism though the following months, expanding on everything that had come before, building backstories and deepening the plot. In November I sat down and wrote the first draft of the next two novellas.

If all goes to plan (and planning is my New Year’s resolution) I’ll have those books in your hands at some point next year. Because damn it, I came here to chew bubble gum and publish books. And I’m all outta bubble gum.



STAYING CONSISTENT

I got wins, I had work published, and I feel like I’ve finally got a project that can sustain me. But that’s not the main thing I’ve taken from 2015.

All those years of half-hearted efforts, false starts, and abandoned stories; distractions left right and centre. Video games, girls, new story ideas. It all got in the way.

2015 had me doing one thing right above all else; writing consistently. NaNo helped as always, but the weekly Flash contests did the most work on that front. And although Flash! Fiction and Micro Bookends are gone, their legacy sits on my hard drive (and several back up memory sticks) with a massive collection of stories and characters that wouldn’t have been there without them. And while it’s not all gold, perhaps I can find some gems among the dirt.

And I will write more regularly next year too. Like I said, it’s about planning. Its deadlines and word counts. It’s getting ideas on paper. You can’t edit what you don’t have. And my imagination isn’t done yet.



REFRESHING

And that’s my 2015 as far as writing is concerned. Contests have fallen away, I still haven’t accomplished my goal of being published with my own project, and, as always, I only have myself to blame. But I’m closer still. I can feel it.

A big thank you to all of you that have supported me in 2015. Whether it’s comments, tweets, or just reading this blog, it is all very much appreciated. And when I’m all big and famous, you can say that you remember when I started a blog and my spelling was atrocious and I just waffled on about this project and that project.

Won’t that be funny?

Next year will see a change up in blog format. Weekly is killing me and causing me to worry about what I’m doing instead of just doing it. So 2016 see’s the blog go fortnightly. For those three people reading, I hope this doesn’t frustrate you, and I assure you it’s for the best in the long run.

So with this, my 100th blog post, I say for the last time . . .

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 50: “Farewell, Flash Friday”


2015 WORD COUNT=                        125517

  
I don’t like change. Never have.

I’m the first to admit that I’m a strange person, one who likes (or perhaps needs) things to be a certain way so that the pressure of choice is off, and the outcome is always as expected.

·         I have five shirts that I wear to work, and each week I pick out the same one for the same day.
·         When I go to McDonalds, I get the same meal every time. Every. Time.
·         Every Friday I write a piece of fiction for Flash! Friday without fail.

Except last Friday, I didn’t. Because 566 days since I posted my first entry, THE LADY OF THE WOODS, Flash! Friday was no more.

And this made me very sad.

I’d fallen into a rut where I assumed the contest would last forever and a dime. Certainly, right up until I finally got my win in June of this year (a proud moment that I will always hold dear), I thought that I had forever to chase my victory, that I should just keep entering story after story until I became a master of the craft, until the end of time.

And now, with Flash! Friday and Micro Bookends folded, I found myself somewhat lost. When the announcement went up a few weeks ago that the end was coming, it was like finding out that your best friend was moving away to the other side of the world.

Yet once the panic had subsided, I knew it would be okay. Sure something I’d loved doing for the last 18 months was going, but I wasn’t about to revert to my previous state. I wasn’t walking away empty handed. Because I’d gained so much since I first found the balls to post a little story way back when; writing skills, method, discipline, friends, a writing group, and best of all, actual publication.

I think what I did wrong was treat these awesome contests like a job (one that I loved). Instead, I realise now, Flash! Friday and Micro Bookends are more like the school experience I’d always dreamed of, and now that it’s over, it’s time to take what I’ve learned and head out into the big bad world as a growed up writer person man.



LOOKING BACK

Back in April/May of last year I was just getting to work on trying to be, what my mother would call, ‘a proper writer’. I’d had this blog going for a few months and was sticking my head out into the world, nervously, trying to see what other people were doing. One place I’d landed was a little weekly Flash Fiction contest called Flash! Friday.

I’d suddenly gone from aimlessly wandering around, to suddenly having direction. I now had somewhere to aim my imagination, and I began to learn discipline. It was no time at all before Flash! Friday became a regular staple in my week. First thing to do after waking on a Friday morning? Check that prompt. Set those cogs of imagination spinning while eating my bowl full of cereals and waiting for the kettle to boil. Carry the basic plot points and characters with me on my way to work. Let it all grow while spending the morning updating co-workers errors. And then, when lunch rolled around, unleash the story upon the blank page.

That’s all my Fridays were really. Everything else was just sorta ‘background’. I was creating, building, shaping new things on a regular basis. Gone were the days of expanding a new idea every month or so. I was cooking on gas with new worlds and characters popping into existence every seven days.

Of course, it wasn’t all gold. It’s been a mixed 81 weeks, that’s for sure. Highs and lows. Strong and weak tales. Winners and losers. There are stories that I’ve entered that make me cringe now that I look back on them, while others sit there begging to be expanded into bigger adventures (though I’m worried it might ruin what they are). But I have a folder on my hard drive (and after November’s mishaps it’s all backed up to the N’th degree) that contains 200+ ideas to work with or just be proud of.

And there’s the Anthologies that I’m so, so, so proud to be a part of.

I won’t go on and on. I’ve talked about all of my experience in detail throughout the many blog posts over the last two years, and repeating it all will just bore the few that visit this blog.

All I can do now is thank those that made me reach this point.



THANK YOU

Craig, a man from this continent who went to that continent via another continent. A man who, unbeknownst to him at the time, redirected my life into a direction I very much needed. If I ever get my work out there, a dedication is coming your way, Mr Anderson.

Mark/David (I still hold that these two are one almighty and powerful entity). They took me into their writing group and in one foul swoop, gave me a confidence power boost while simultaneously allowing me to fulfil my ambition of having work published in paperback form. Cannot be more chuffed that my mother has a book she can hold in her hand and read her son’s writings.

Stella said something almost throw away, and unknowingly caused two of my creations to explode from 100 word flash piece stars, to the main characters in (currently) three novella drafts that I’m pushing to get released into the world in the next twelve months. There’s a character with your name coming up in a very important role in the CHRIS AND MIKE universe. I hope that’s okay.

David B, for letting me know that my creations were welcome in the house of writing he had set up. Much appreciated. I won’t forget the Executive Producer credit I owe you.

To all the other FlashDogs and fellow Flash Fiction writers that turned up as I did, week in, week out, who shared their stories, commented on mine, and continued to set that bar ever so high each and every Friday. Flash! Friday was an amazing place to visit and it’s all down to you.

Which brings us to the legendary dragoness herself, Rebekah Postupak. The playground you set up for us goes beyond impressive. Write your stories Friday, have the results on a Sunday. That’s all it needed to be. That would have been fine. But no, you wanted to give more; Flash Points, spotlight interviews, Warmup Wednesday. It became something huge, and your love for us writers permeated throughout the whole experience. You’ve left some pretty big boots to fill and one hell of a high bar for other contests to aim for. You aided in where I am at the moment, and wherever I end up in the future. Thank you.



EPILOGUE

And that’s all folks. The end of a chapter. I’m currently on a writing break as the end of the year gets busy and I recharge the batteries of my imagination (though I did sneak a little 71 word entry over at Paragraph Planet).

Next week will be the end of year look back and then it’s into 2016 where I plan on (finally) getting my solo projects out there. There’s changes coming, and I hope it’s for the best.

Have a good Christmas everyone.

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 49: “May The Force Be With You”


2015 WORD COUNT=                        125446

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . .



The immortal opening words to one of the greatest sagas of the modern world. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard that tomorrow is a pretty big day for any self-respecting Star Wars fan out there.

Excitement is reaching fever pitch, and tomorrow the world’s supply of Star Wars fans will finally have their patience rewarded by finally having the answer to the question we’ve been asking since Disney purchased Lucasfilm and announced the new series of films; will it be any good.

I’m playing the good Star Wars fan and staying optimistic, totally convinced that, at the very worst; it won’t be as bad as the Prequel trilogy.

To get me ready I’ve spent the last few days watching the previous films, culminating in tonight’s back-to-back viewing of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and my personal favourite, RETURN OF THE JEDI.



To say I’m excited is an understatement. I’ve been counting down for weeks now and the last couple of days have dragged. But it’s nearly time. At 11am tomorrow morning I will be sitting down in my assigned chair ready to revert back to my childhood for two hours of excitement and adventure.

Bring it on.

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 48: “FlashDogs Strike Back”


2015 WORD COUNT=                        125246



FLASHDOGS EPISODE III
NO REST FOR THE WICKED

The Battle of NaNoWriMo is over. As the dust settles,
a band of FlashDogs emerge, scarred and beaten.
The cost of the fight was high.

But these brave authors cannot rest. A new challenge
awaits, one that will test their drained imaginations, and
push their Flash Fiction skills to the limit.

Three prompts stand before them now, images and themes
designed to inspire. The FlashDogs must unite if they are to
produce the greatest Flash Fiction anthology yet.




Three, according to De La Soul, is the magic number.

So isn’t it awesome that, early next year, you’ll be able to pick up the third FlashDog anthology. That’s right. Third. Because two amazing collections of awe-inspiring, dimension hopping, genre deifying stories already exist, running free out there in the wild.

Wait, you haven’t picked them up yet? Well, what are you waiting for? They’re out there right now, begging to be devoured by super cool readers like yourselves. And because the FlashDogs don’t discriminate; there is the option to pick up e-book or classic paperback version; convenience and/or nostalgia.


But if it’s not out until next year, why am I bringing it up before the lights on 2015 have even gone out? Good question. Well, the answer is twofold.

First off, like a good teaser trailer, it lets you know that, right now, it’s being constructed by an elite team of master book builders. Before you read this blog post you didn’t know anything about it. Now you do. See, it worked.

Secondly, because last night was a huge weight off my shoulders as the last of my three stories was finally sent off to FDHQ. And now I wait patiently, hoping that they’re good enough to be included.

You see, it’s been tough, tougher than the first two anthologies (seriously, if you haven’t purchased them yet then go and do it now while I’ll wait for you here). Most of that comes from a little writing project I recently took part in called NaNoWriMo.

I had the anthology prompts before November and so divided my imagination in two parts: 80% on the Chris and Mike novellas, and 20% on anthology. Yet that 20% seemed to stall. I got one idea (which did make it to final draft) but the other two photos offered zero inspiration.

I hoped that once NaNoWriMo was out of the way, that perhaps with 100% dedicated, something would just happen. I hoped that because I knew one of the remaining prompts just had to be a new story set in my ‘Boy and His Tank’ universe, that I was half way there. But nothing comes easy when you’re trying to force it. A story did eventually unfold (not the Tank one) and I had something at least.

And then suddenly it was on deadline day.

Or so I thought.

You see I’d been so focused on getting them done, that I had a specific date in my mind and just stuck with it. Which was fine . . . if it had been the right date. Now, luck was on my side, and the correct date was in the future, not the past, so I breathed a sigh of relief when I found that I’d gained four extra days.

Panic slightly over, I sent one story off complete (or so I thought) and gave myself some room over that final weekend to get the other two done. Sunday rolled around, the wife and my writing buddy Geoff Holmes having signed off on my second story, which I went to send off, relieving more stress with one remaining. Except when I went to e-mail the second story I found that I hadn’t in fact e-mailed the first. I’d sent it to myself instead.

Two stories now sent to FDHQ, sweat wiped from brow, time to get on with that third.

Only this time, it wasn’t meant to be. I gave up; late on Monday, realising that I was trying to fit a short story into a Flash Fiction word count. I then had two tough decisions. Firstly would this be the first FlashDog anthology without a ‘Tank’ story (spoiler, yes), and would I be happy only presenting two stories instead of three (almost).

I told the wife that I was done, no more ideas were coming, and instead got to work on the washing up.

And then I went and got an idea.

Laptop booted, knuckles cracked, and off I went. A completely original story, something that I felt was about 300-400 words long started forming on the page. But 300-400 words wasn’t enough to contain it and so it grew to twice that. I read it over. Read it again. The wife read it. I sent it to Geoff. The next day (deadline day) I edited it one last time and then, before heading out the door last night, I hit send. And then I sat back and dissolved into jelly.

Okay, that last bit didn’t happen, but it sure felt like it.

And that was all that I wrote. And it may be for a while now. I’ve struggled these last few months; home plus work plus writing is starting to make things a little jumbled. With the anthology stories done and sent in, with the Flash Fiction contests that boosted my interested in writing slowly falling one-by-one, it feels like a good time to take a break.

It’s not quitting. It’s not lazy. It’s stepping back and looking for that thing that made me enjoy getting ideas down, that burst of characters and places and stories flowing from my head and onto the page. I feel like I’ve used up everything in my head now.

I’m running on empty.

I’m not going anywhere. The blog is still going to go up weekly (I have it all planned to the end of this year and into the start of the next. And this Friday sees the last ever Flash Friday Flasheversary contest, the big bang finale to the place that started it all for me. I hope I can bring my ‘A’ game just one last time.

Fingers crossed I can return stronger, make next year ‘the’ year. Only time will tell. Whatever happens, I hope you look forward to anthology 3 when it hits next year. I’ll keep you posted while you read/re-read the first two volumes (links above).

Until then, keep reading and keep writing.

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 47: “NaNoWriMo - Serving up a draft”

2015 WORD COUNT=                        71950

2015 NaNo WORD COUNT=               51113

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           122185


I’m going to get this out of the way at the very beginning; I made it across the 50,000 word finishing line. I’m a winner!

It was a tough month, I won’t deny it. Much harder than 2013 or 2014 were. I never thought I wouldn’t make it, but part of me knows I could have done it sooner.

But, win I did. And now I have two more first draft Chris And Mike novellas in the bag. The plan was always to finish the first three (the first being July’s CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE RISING DEAD for CampNaNo) and then edit them together, allowing me to lay little titbits throughout, linking the tales together. The three novellas make up the origin story and show how Chris and Mike get together in the first place and what leads them setting up their monster hunting business.
  

 DAY TWENTY-SIX – 1850 words

After ending the previous day bringing in a new character in the form of a four story tall demon (the books big bad), I booted up the laptop today realising I need to do something with him. So I started today making him fiercer. I then realised that Chris and Mike were ill-equipped to deal with him and also had no clue who he even was. So I ended up creating a new character, a figure of good, the opposite of the demon in many ways. And with this character came back-story, conflict, and the purpose of the book. It all suddenly clicked and I had my ending. It felt good.


DAY TWENTY-SEVEN – 2584 words

Another Friday meant another early start commute into work with my laptop in tow. I took that extra hour and wrote the beginning of the end as the heroes head on to the treasure they’ve been after since the start. I also chucked in a little more banter between Chris and Mike, because I like these two best when they don’t see eye-to-eye.

I got some more words down at lunch, bringing the demon back in a big way as well as finally revealing the temple from the title. A big fight is building, and our heroes don’t looked matched for it. And then the worst thing happens; a hero falls.

DAY TWENTY-EIGHT – 1861 words

The pause before the final fight. Two characters trapped inside the temple, danger all around. This is where the real backstory comes out as the history of the temple is revealed, and the link from the two mythical figures who have been duking it out for centuries is discovered. Is there really no hope? Are our characters doomed? Is the world as we know it over?


DAY TWENTY-NINE – 3014 words

This was it in more ways than one. The end of the story would play out today and I was planning on using the epic finale to get me over that finish line.

A secret now revealed, the only weapon to defeat the demon finally in hand, and a hero fighting against the darkness. This chapter has it all.

The wife was so helpful this day, taking my son out twice, and giving me the opportunity to get my NaNoWriMo 2015 win with my second highest word count of this November.

If you take part in NaNoWriMo then you’ll know what it feels like when you see your word count cross 50,000. A great weight is lifted, and the absolute relief of making it makes you want to cry and smile at the same time. All the low word counts, the moments of writers block, all get forgotten about as it all feels totally worth it

DAY THIRTY – 878 words

I didn’t need to write today, but I had the beginning of the prologue in my head and wanted to get it down. Although the novellas are primarily stand alone, I am linking things through them, and this final chapter ties up not just the third novella, but the whole origin trilogy.
  
  
And that’s it. No more NaNoWriMo updates for the year. Normal service (whatever that was) will resume next week, with a look at the current FlashDog anthology project, followed the week after with a goodbye to Flash! Friday (expect a side order of tears with that one).

Before I go, a big thank you to the wife. Having to deal with a constantly distracted husband who spurts out random word goals on a daily basis, while talking about people who aren’t real (to her) fighting monsters and saving the world, probably isn’t easy. Not only that, but towards the end of the month she makes an extra effort to remove our son from under my feet and give me peace and quiet, and space to write (wish my neighbour was as courteous). I couldn’t do NaNoWriMo without her.

Also a big thank you to those of you that supported me, that tweeted words of encouragement, that shared your own NaNo highs and lows (you know who you are). 2015 was the first time I really felt like I was writing in a group, and being a FlashDog played a big part of that. A massive congratulations to my fellow writing buddies. A lot of success stories this year, from the last minute finishes, to the super impressive (and double the necessary) word counts. You worked your butts off and now there are even more cool stories in the world.

Now I’m off to not write. Maybe I’ll play some Fallout, take a walk around the always dangerous Wasteland.

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 46: “NaNoWriMo – Day 25”


2015 WORD COUNT=                        71806

2015 NaNo WORD COUNT=               40926

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           112732



As the end of the month closes in, I feel a twinge of jealousy upon seeing several NaNoWriMo Writer Buddies crossing the finish line and validating their projects.  And while I’m a hundred percent over the moon for them and their success, I’m annoyed at myself for not being there with them.

But my race is not over, not yet. I still have five more writing days to go and I’m pretty much on schedule. Better still, other than day 19, I’ve managed to pass the daily target of 1667. Sure, I’d have liked to have validated already, and either carried on with less pressure, or called time and moved onto something else. But you have 30 days to write 50,000 words. Not 25. Not 35.

30.

And it looks like I’m going to use every single one.
  


DAY NINETEEN – 1202 words

It was a last minute choice to create the other dimension library and so I just carried on with it on Thursday. And something else I decided to do was bring in the events of a future Chris and Mike story; CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE LIBRARIAN, my ode to the sad passing of Terry Pratchett. In that piece of flash fiction, written earlier in the year, I’d had our heroes meet the Librarian of the Unseen University.

Obviously it’s a character I can’t include in my own works, so I made a subtle change to my worlds version. I still wanted to keep it as a cheeky nod though, so the change is, as I said, subtle.


DAY TWENTY – 2129 words

Day 20 was one of those writing sessions that just seemed to flow. With a now working laptop, I was able to get a nice chunk done before my shift started, and another session at lunch just built on that.

These scenes see Chris and Mike make their way (in what may or may not be a stolen car) to the old tin mine, the start of their journey to find treasure deep within the bowels of the Temple of Gloom.


DAY TWENTY-ONE – 1906 words

With the elevator now out of action, Chris and Mike face their first real danger of this adventure as they make their way down the elevator shaft.

Despite a busy morning, my wonderful wife took our son out to allow me a little piece and quiet and I took full advantage. What would I do without her?


DAY TWENTY-TWO – 1822 words

The guys were reaching the end of what was the old abandoned tin mine and about to cross into the ancient cave system hidden deeper below it.


DAY TWENTY-THREE – 2089 words

Sometimes the story flows out into the laptop easier, sometime it’s a challenge. Monday was impressive, and I didn’t need to do more when I got in, the daily target pretty much accomplished. But I wanted to finish the scene.

And what a scene. With nothing but slow exploration and cave walls for company, I decided it was time to throw the first real threat at the boys. And what better way then for someone thought dead in the prologue to be brought back to life (sort off). A vicious scrap ensues, and our heroes are changed by the conflict.

Fight!

And let’s not forget about the pair arguing between themselves when their lives aren’t in danger. I’m really enjoying fleshing out the relationship between the two main characters, something hinted at, but minimal, in the flash fiction pieces.


DAY TWENTY-FOUR – 1880 words

I managed a thousand words on lunch but didn’t expect to manage much more once I was home. Tuesday night is Pub Quiz night, after all. But the babysitter (aka mother) was caught in traffic and suddenly an extra thirty minutes appeared from nowhere.

So the guys entered the catacombs below the city of the caves. I carried on in the evening and threw in another homage, this time to the movie which this novella kind of borrows its name. That’s right; rotting rope bridge over river.  


DAY TWENTY-FIVE – 1747 words

Day 25 was a dark day, which fortunately had a happy ending.

I booted up the laptop at lunch time, ready to get stuck in, only to find that the memory stick I use was having some corruption issues. Crap!

Things got worse when the back-up version also failed, as did the compiled Word doc version. But a ray of hope came in the form of the copy of the Word doc that I normally stick on the desktop. I was saved.

Except that I wasn’t, because the previous night, the writing session before the pub quiz (we came second), I used a different laptop. And, trying to rush as I was saving it, I didn’t make a copy. So I lost every word written on the 24th. Every. Word. And I like those words.

So this lunch time I had the NaNo wind knocked out of me. I won’t lie; I was so fed up with laptop and save issues, I was very close to giving up for the rest of the month. But I spent the afternoon talking myself out of quitting.

And then something magical happened. I dug deeper when I got home, and found a backup that held all that I had done. Carefully I restored it and then jumped for joy, desperately looking for someone, anyone, to high five (son was in bed, wife was out, cat ran away scared).

And so, happy once more, I got on with what happened after that bridge I mentioned had a failure. More conflict between the boys, before something ancient, something waiting, revealed itself to our heroes.

The end is near, in more ways than one.



And that’s my last update for November. Next week’s post will be the aftermath where I discuss the highs and lows, what I loved, and where I failed.

Another big congratulations to those with their purple bars. Buy me a drink, and I’ll meet you at the bar. And let’s not forget those that are still running alongside me, all heading towards that glowing word target in the sky.

Of course some people won’t make it to the end this year, for a variety of reasons. But to them I say this; you may not make it to validate, but whether you wrote 1000, 10,000, or 40,000, they are words that you did not have under you belt when November started. With the pressure of November lifted in a few days, you have a seed to carry on working with. And that’s something, right?





Before I go, there’s just one more thing. There was a little bit of sad news last Friday for those of us in the Flash Fiction community. Upon looking up the Flash! Friday prompt for the 20th November, we were all greeted by Rebekah Postupak’s announcement that Flash! Friday, the launch pad for many of us Flash writers, will be coming to an end.

While I’ve wanted to be a writer for a long, long time, I can’t deny that, if I hadn’t been led to the Flash! Friday website all those months ago, if I hadn’t built up the courage to jump in with a swell bunch of authors, then I wouldn’t be still trying to realise my dream.

Sure, the regular writing, the forcing myself away from my comfort zones, has all helped to improve my writing and sharpen my skills. But you can get that from other sites, other writers groups. For me, Flash! Friday was is more than that. It’s a place where I found people like me. It’s a place where mighty friendships were born. And from these friendships, a cool admiration and respect grew. And then following the forging of a group, an Anthology was created, leading to people reading my stories in an actual solid, and very real, book. Any success I’ve had, and any success I achieve in the future, just wouldn’t have happened without Flash! Friday. Of that I have no doubt.

I’m planning a bigger article for later next month so I’ll leave it there for now.



And that’s all for now. So wish me luck. Five more days of writing, with tomorrow being a day off work (that should help big time).

See you in seven. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 45: “NaNoWriMo – Day 18”

2015 WORD COUNT=                        71606

2015 NaNo WORD COUNT=               28151

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           99757



With November the 15th now out of the way, it’s the downward rush towards the finish line.

These last seven days have been tough, a lot tougher than I expected, and I feel like I’ve let myself down. The want to write was there (most of the time), but as I got to the end of CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE FOREST OF DEATH, I found myself wading through tar again. Yet it’s not the ending that gets me, it’s that annoying little bit just before it. The part where the heroes prepare themselves, and head off to face the finale. It’s that pause, the build in tension, the wind up. Hopefully it’s something I can work on.

But, despite the struggle, I did manage to write these last few days, so it’s not quite the disaster that it felt like at the time. 
  


DAY TWELVE – 629 words

Well, I thought I’d been clever by sticking a cottage in front of my heroes, so as to mix things up a bit. And then I found I’d written myself into a basement shaped corner. Today was spent of winding up the solution, getting the heroes the hell out of there, and getting them back on track.
One silver lining was that I’d discovered a solution to a series of breadcrumbs I wasn’t even entirely aware that I was dropping. From the start I’d placed a mysterious figure watching from the shadows but not really thought much of it. While the boys were fleeing the cottage, my brain was busy building an elaborate backstory for this mysterious figure, as well as a way to intertwine his plot into the main story.

Unfortunately it was late, and my mind was struggling to keep a steady pace. I planned what was coming next and called time.


DAY THIRTEEN – 1204 words

To have written anything on Friday was a massive surprise. With it being my son’s birthday, I had planned for a zero word count day (plan for the worst, hope for the best). Add Flash! Friday, a health visitor visit, a trip to the doctors for my son to have a flu jab, the morning at a play shack, a meal out – well, as you can see the day was pretty packed. So 1 word would have been a blessing; 1204 was just plain awesome.

This scene was all about taking what I’d thought up the previous day and putting it on page; the mysterious figure is reveal, and a key location is set up.

I sensed the ending coming now.


DAY FOURTEEN – 1740 words

A few weeks ago, while planning the story of CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE FOREST OF DEATH, I had this vision of the whole forest collapsing into the ground, our heroes barely surviing. The only problem was how that would fit in with the story of two guys just lost in the woods.

Flash forward and the story was becoming a little more epic in scale. The shadowy figure is revealed to be a key character to the forest, a forest that doesn’t exactly sit in our plane of existence.

I really had my ending now.


DAY FIFTEEN – 2039 words

My son’s birthday party. A day far busier than the Friday. Another planned zero word count day. So guess my surprise and excitement when I managed to update my spreadsheet with 2000+ words. How did I manage it, I hear you ask? Well, I guess I was kind of lucky that the Brazilian Grand Prix was nothing short of a bore fest. I mean it was the opposite of entertainment. So out came the laptop and the words flowed.

It was the last planned day for CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE FOREST OF DEATH. I’d decided early on that I’d handle a minimum of two novellas this November, and day 15 was the halfway point. Couple that with the struggle to build the ending (I ended up skipping the build-up and the last burst of writing was the last couple of scenes of the story) and I was ready to start the next story.

DAY SIXTEEN – 1281 words

A new story meant a new intro. I decided to open CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE TEMPLE OF GLOOM with a standard TV show opening. So the scene is set, new characters (an archaeologist and his assistant) and the novella’s big bad is semi-revealed.


DAY SEVENTEEN – 1759 words

In a similar way to how I started the last novella, I wanted to find Chris and Mike making their way through the real world, dealing with new real world problems. In this case, Mike is homeless and jobless and is now relying on Chris for help.

Of course Chris being Chris, things are never that simple. And that’s why, instead of show Mike to his house, the pair end up at a house viewing for a building that really should be torn down.


DAY EIGHTEEN – 1704 words

After venting to his friend, Mike finds that Chris has bigger plans than just being a cheap, run down home. You see he has a treasure map.

I spent a lot of this chapter doing more world building too, aware that this series could have legs, and things can be dropped in here and there to set up for later adventures.




The point of NaNoWriMo (in my opinion) is to always march forward, to keep writing and leave the looking back (all that editing) until December 1st. And so I apply that logic to all aspects of the process. Like badly written prose, the distractions and writers block of the last week are now firmly stuck in the past and cannot be amended. All I can do is keep my chin up and power on, knowing from past experience that a word splurge can happen at any moment. I’m behind my targets, sure, but nowhere near the distance to consider stopping. Not by a long shot.

And in the meantime there are my fellow FlashDog writer buddies to draw inspiration from.

A massive congratulations to Tamara Shoemaker, Margaret Locke, and Carin Marais, all who have in the last week, crossed the 50,000 word finish line. To do that this early is amazing, and I am in complete awe of each of them.

Meanwhile, still in the race, and running alongside me, are Tamara Rogers, Emily June Street, Steph Ellis, Liz Hedgecock, Rebekah Postupak, and Casey Rose Frank. All still pouring out the words and keeping me honest.

And that’s it for another week. Looking forward to see where tomorrow leads me. Good luck to all those still charging through their stories.

See you in seven.